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Mosques in America: A Blending of Cultures

01 July 2011

There are 1,900 mosques in the United States, representing many different cultures and traditions. This is a sampler of that diversity.

Intro Panel

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Credit: AP Images

Alt: Exterior of Islamic Society of Orange County (AP Images)

There are 1,900 mosques in the United States, representing many different cultures and traditions. Following is a sample of that diversity.

Islamic Society of Orange County
Garden Grove, California

The Islamic Society of Orange County was one of the first Muslim centers in southern California. It is also one of the largest, attracting up to 3,000 worshippers at Friday prayers. The center, established in 1976, is a leader in community and interfaith outreach. It recently started a food pantry and offered a course on world religions. The center includes a mosque —- Masjid Al-Rahman — a school and community rooms. Orange County’s Muslim population is highly diverse and is one of the largest in the United States.

Panel 1

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Credit: Courtesy photo

Alt: Exterior of Islamic Center of Washington (Courtesy of Derek Brown)

Islamic Center of Washington
Washington, D.C.

President Dwight Eisenhower spoke at the Islamic Center of Washington dedication in 1957, affirming America’s principle of religious freedom. At the time, the center was the largest Muslim place of worship in the Western Hemisphere.

The center seeks to promote a better understanding of Islam in the United States. It was conceived in the mid-1940s by an Egyptian diplomat and a Palestinian immigrant businessman who set up a foundation to build a mosque. Many Islamic nations donated funds, decorations and craftsmen to the project, and support also came from American Muslims. Today more than 3,000 worshippers attend Friday prayers. The center also offers services such as marriage ceremonies, burials, counseling, instruction in Islam and Arabic and public tours.

Panel 2

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Original source: http://30mosques.com/2010/09/day-22-ross-north-dakota-a-leap-in-time/

Credit: Courtesy photo

Alt: Exterior of small mosque with dome and minarets at dusk (Courtesy of 30mosques.com/Bassam Tariq)

First Constructed Mosque in the United States
Ross, North Dakota

Many historians believe the first mosque constructed in the United States was located on the North Dakota prairie. Earlier U.S. mosques were in converted buildings. The North Dakota mosque was built from the ground up around 1929 by Syrian-Lebanese immigrants near the tiny town of Ross.

Over time, many Muslims in Ross moved elsewhere, and others died and were buried in a Muslim cemetery near the mosque. The building fell into disrepair and finally was dismantled, but Sarah Allie (Omar) Shupe, a Muslim, wanted to see it rebuilt. She died in 2004, but her family fulfilled her wish the next year. The new mosque is on the same land as the original. It is about 300 square feet (27.8 square meters) and serves as a memorial to Ross’ Muslim pioneers. A few people occasionally use it as a personal prayer space.

More photos and information are at 30mosques.com.

Panel 3


Credit: Courtesy photo

Alt: Exterior of small white mosque with green dome (Courtesy of Mother Mosque of America, Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

Mother Mosque of America
Cedar Rapids, Iowa

The longest-standing purpose-built mosque in the United States is the Mother Mosque of America in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, constructed in 1934 and still used for Muslim celebrations in its original building. Arab Muslims who arrived in the late 1880s received encouragement and help from earlier Arab Christian immigrants. They built the Mother Mosque and worshipped there for nearly 40 years until a larger mosque was built.

The old mosque was used for other purposes until it was restored by the Islamic Council of Iowa and rededicated in 1992. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an "essential piece of American religious history.” The building is an Islamic heritage and cultural center, used for meetings, iftars, religious discussions and other special events.

Panel 4

Credit: Courtesy photo

Alt: Exterior of mosque with dome and minaret (Courtesy of Omar Khalidi)

Photo is http://photos.america.gov/galleries/amgov/30145/mosques/MS_4_001.jpg - however, it could be brightened as in photo above. See G:\Press\FEATURES group\PHOTOS\Mosques-Ramadan\Mosque Michigan Albanian MS_4.jpg

Albanian Islamic Center
Harper Woods, Michigan

The Albanian Islamic Center was founded in 1962 by the Albanian Muslim population in the Detroit area. Located in a residential suburb in Wayne County, east of Detroit, it boasts a distinctive Balkan-style dome and minaret. The mosque serves the Albanian-American community — already well-established by the 1940s — and newer Muslim immigrants from the Balkan countries, along with Iranians, Palestinians, Maltese, Arabs and Indians.

The center has a prayer area, offices, a large social hall and classrooms. It provides weekend religious instruction in Arabic, Albanian and English. In September 2010, Albanian President Bamir Topi and his wife visited the center.

Panel 5

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Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nueces_Mosque_Front_view.JPG

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Alt: Exterior of wooden house with sign ‘Nueces Mosque’ on roof of porch (Wikimedia Commons)

Nueces Mosque
Austin, Texas

In 1977, the Muslim Student Association at the University of Texas established the first mosque in Austin, the state capital. Located in a house on Nueces Street, the Nueces Mosque serves as a satellite to the much larger Islamic Center of Greater Austin. It continues to welcome Muslim students and also hosts events for the larger community, such as an annual open house. Early in 2011, it held the first “bring a buddy to the mosque” event, to which Muslim students brought their non-Muslim friends. Nueces Mosque members volunteer at the food bank, hold fundraisers and do community projects with other groups.

There are at least 150 local Muslim student associations affiliated with the National Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada.

Panel 6

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(Please straighten, brighten and crop as shown)

Original source: http://30mosques.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/DSC03137.jpg

Credit: Courtesy photo

Alt: Exterior of white mosque with dome and minaret (Courtesy of 30mosques.com/Bassam Tariq)

Masjid Abu-Bakr Al-Siddiq
Metairie, Louisiana

The Muslim population of Metairie, Louisiana, a New Orleans suburb, was hard-hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. However, the community’s largest mosque, Masjid Abu-Bakr Al-Siddiq, was spared and became a rallying place to bring people together — including during Ramadan. The congregation of about 300 families is made up of first- and second-generation Muslim Americans from Pakistan, India and the Middle East, as well as converts. It is the only structure in the New Orleans area that was built specifically as a mosque (in 1988), and its unique architecture includes a geodesic dome that holds a star-shaped skylight.

Panel 7

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(Please brighten, color adjust, crop as shown)

Original source: http://30mosques.com/2010/08/day-13-kansas-islamic-society-of-wichita/

Credit: Courtesy photo

Alt: Exterior of roof of mosque with green dome (Courtesy of 30mosques.com/Bassam Tariq)

Islamic Society of Wichita
Wichita, Kansas

The Islamic Society of Wichita, Kansas, works hard at outreach efforts. Public groups come to tour the mosque and learn more about Islam, and members of the congregation speak out about their faith. The center also holds bazaars and other cultural events. The diverse Muslim community includes many engineers and other professionals in the aerospace industry, as Wichita is an aircraft manufacturing center. There are about 5,000 Muslims in Wichita, according to local news media. Wichita’s total population is 383,000.

Wichita’s first Islamic mosque was established in 1976. The current building was opened in 2005 and includes the Annoor Islamic School, which educates about 100 students.

Panel 8

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Original source: http://www.uticaod.com/multimedia/x121598923/GALLERY-From-church-to-mosque?photo=0

Credit: Courtesy photo

Alt: Exterior of church entrance with plaque showing crescent and star symbols (Courtesy of William P. Cannon/Utica Observer-Dispatch)

Bosnian Islamic Association Mosque
Utica, New York

Bosnian-Muslim immigrants in Utica, New York, have converted a former Methodist church dating from the 1880s — which was scheduled to be demolished — into a mosque and community center. They purchased the abandoned building from the city in 2008 and have been renovating it since, replacing the roof and covering the brick exterior with stucco. The church’s steeple has been converted into a minaret, and the mosque has a prayer room decorated with gold and red carpet. There are about 6,000 Bosnians in Utica, mostly Muslims, and the mosque serves about 450 families. The town of Utica received national attention for welcoming the new mosque.

See a photo gallery of mosque transformation on the Utica Observer-Dispatch website (September 2008).

See a photo gallery of mosque renovations on the Utica Observer-Dispatch website (April 2011).

Panel 9


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Credit: Chris Yunker

Alt: Large mosque with minarets and copper dome (Chris Yunker)

Al-Farooq Masjid
Atlanta, Georgia

When the Al-Farooq Masjid was established in 1980 in Atlanta, it was one of only a few mosques in the southeastern United States. Today, in a new building that opened in 2008, it is the largest mosque in the Atlanta area.

Al-Farooq Masjid has prayer spaces that can accommodate 1,100 men and 700 women. It attracts worshippers who represent at least 39 different ethnicities and includes students and teachers from the nearby Georgia Institute of Technology. The mosque has one of the largest education programs in the United States in Quran and Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) and an active community outreach program. Atlanta, the capital of the state of Georgia, is home to some 80,000 Muslims and three dozen mosques.

Panel 10

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Credit: © AP Images

Alt: Exterior of pueblo-style dome of mosque (AP Images)

Dar al Islam
Abiquiu, New Mexico

Near the small town of Abiquiu, New Mexico, is a dramatic pueblo-style mosque made from adobe. Built in 1981, it is part of an educational center run by Dar al Islam, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping non-Muslims understand Islam and to deepening the practice of Islam among Muslims. The 1,300-acre (526-hectare) property sits on a juniper-studded mesa framed by hills, arroyos and distant mountains. It is used for conferences and camps, including a summer Muslim youth camp and a retreat for young Muslim women.

Panel 11

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Credit: © AP Images

Alt: Exterior of Islamic Society of Greater Valley Forge mosque (AP Images)

Islamic Society of Greater Valley Forge
Devon, Pennsylvania

With a Jewish synagogue next door and Baptist church across the street, the Islamic Society of Greater Valley Forge is a model of interfaith cooperation. It opened a new mosque and community center in September 2010 and invited neighbors in for a tour. Then, at the end of Ramadan, the society invited members of the synagogue and church to join them for Eid-al-Fitr celebrations. Leaders of the mosque participate in an annual interfaith walk in Philadelphia, and students from the society’s weekend Islamic school were part of an interfaith event this year.

The mosque serves about 60 families and has doubled in size in the past dozen years as technology professionals arrived in the area from India and Pakistan.

Panel 12

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Credit: Courtesy photo

Alt: Exterior of All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque (Courtesy of All Dulles Area Muslim Society)

All Dulles Area Muslim Society
Sterling, Virginia

The All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) was established in 1983 by a few families in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington. It now has 10 branches and is one of the region’s largest Muslim community organizations, serving more than 5,000 families — both Sunnis and Shiites.

ADAMS participates in more than 100 interfaith events and meetings a year. The mosque has hosted Passover Seders with Muslim, Jewish and Christian participants, as well as a Holocaust remembrance event, and it rents Friday prayer space from local synagogues. Its members are active in community service and volunteer activities, and ADAMS sponsors Boy and Girl Scout troops and other youth programs. There are at least 250,000 Muslims in the Washington area, according to estimates.

Panel 13

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Credit: © AP Images

Alt: Exterior of large mosque with three domes and two minarets (AP Images)

Islamic Center of America
Dearborn, Michigan

Dearborn hosts the largest Arab-American community in the United States, with a significant population of Lebanese and Iraqi Shiite Muslims. It is home to the Islamic Center of America, which encompasses 120,000 square feet (11,148 square meters) and is the largest mosque in North America. The building was dedicated in 2005 after the congregation moved from a smaller mosque. It includes a prayer room, an auditorium, banquet facilities and the Muslim American Youth Academy.

The prayer space can accommodate 1,000 worshippers. Women pray in the main space behind the men, but there is also a balcony area for women who want to pray separately. The congregation includes more than 3,000 members, mainly Shiite Muslims, although all Muslims are welcome.

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html)